Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, another pandemic has been sweeping across the country.
There has been a significant increase in cases of gender-based violence (GBV) and crimes against woman and children as South Africa began to ease its COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. This was highlighted by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his address to the nation on 17 June.
In his address, the President outlined a number of measures and interventions that have been put in place by the government aimed at accelerating the fight against gender-based violence. He also called for the perpetrators of violence against women and children to receive sentences that fit the “horrific” crimes they commit.
Earlier this year in March, the Minerals Council South Africa launched a campaign to address sexual and GBV and harassment on South Africa’s mines and in mining and labour-sending communities. The mining industry has a particular responsibility to address GBV given the predominance of men in management and the rest of the workforce.
Through a concerted effort to increase the participation of women in the local mining industry, women now comprise 12% of the industry’s entire labour force. However, the increase in female participation has not necessarily translated to a significant improvement in the behaviour and attitude towards female miners. In fact, abuse, harassment and intimidation by male colleagues remains a challenge that many women confront on a daily basis, at work as well as at home.
The Minerals Council believes that abuse of women in South Africa and in mining is not a ‘women in mining’ imperative but rather an industry imperative and a national imperative and fully supports Ramaphosa’s initiative to combat GBV and harassment through the proposed amendments to acts, including the Domestic Violence Act, to better protect victims of abuse.
While many Minerals Council members already have policies and systems in place to address sexual harassment and violence in the workplace, this campaign is designed to complement their work and to provide new capacity and impetus throughout the industry regarding this critical issue.
In the medium term, the Minerals Council aims to establish a reporting hotline, with appropriate supporting mechanisms, as well as to engage companies on proactive and reactive responses to GBV and harassment
in the mining industry.
Despite the increased prevalence in South Africa, the challenge of BGV is not a local one. The UN Population Fund estimates that six months of lockdowns across the world could result in an additional 31 million cases of gender-based violence.
Until next time.
Senior Deputy Editor